If you like cauliflower cheese you will absolutely love this dish. It tastes luxurious and makes a fabulous vegetarian main course.
Although it isn’t essential flavor-wise, golden or purple cauliflower will add a colorful dimension if you can find them; otherwise this will be a creamy-looking dish, studded with small flecks of green.
Stilton, that ‘King of English cheeses’ is the best choice but failing that, go for Roquefort or Gorgonzola.
A word of warning if you use purple cauliflower – the water you cook it in will turn blue and unless you want blue-grey pasta, throw that water out and start over. I prefer to use pappardelle egg noodles with this recipe; they’re wonderfully silky but you can use any pasta.
You could also make this as a baked pasta dish; just cook up some penne or similar, fold the pasta into the sauce with the cauliflower, transfer everything to a buttered, shallow ovenproof dish and top it with lots of grated Parmesan before sticking it in a hot oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese turns golden.
You might also enjoy cauliflower & Stilton soup with chili croutons – another winter dinner-party winner that’s impressive and easy to make.
PAPPARDELLE with PURPLE CAULIFLOWER & STILTON
8 oz (200g) of smallish cauliflower florets of equal size
1 oz (20g) of unsalted butter
6 oz (150g) of Stilton, crumbed
4 tablespoons of crème fraîche
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large garlic clove, slightly flattened
1 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stalk
11 oz (300g) of pappardelle noodles or other pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
Drop the cauli florets in a large pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 5 minutes. If using white or golden cauliflower, remove it with a slotted spoon and drain. You’ll use that water to cook the pasta in (unless it’s blue water from a *blue cauli – see above).
Melt the butter with the Stilton and crème fraîche in a small saucepan over a low heat stirring frequently but don’t let it boil. Once the cheese has melted, take the pan off the heat and add the thyme leaves.
Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan and cook the whole garlic for a few minutes until golden then discard it. Add the drained cauliflower to the oil in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until it starts to turn golden in patches.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the reserved cauliflower water until al dente, the drain it quickly and add it to the cauliflower, followed by the Stilton sauce. Fold everything together.
Pile into warmed individual pasta bowls and sprinkle grated Parmesan over the top with extra to pass around.